News about sex work in Southeast Asia
By now readers of this website and generally aware people around the world realize that an ongoing war against sex work stretching back hundreds of years continues on today. While it is not within my powers or the scope of this site to report on every aspect of activity related to the subject I do find it worthwhile to report on developments that may pique the interests of readers from time to time.
When I do report on the subject Vietnam often comes up. This is due to the sort of sex industry drama that unfolds there on a regular basis. A constant stream of interesting English language reporting from that country that can’t easily be found for every other country also contributes.
Way back in early 2013 I published a post about the on-the-job training some sex workers in Vietnam apparently went through with the help of just such reporting. In that post I also mentioned and linked to a 2011 report stating that some officials in Vietnam thought prostitution should be legalized.
After writing about a big sex shop crackdown in Saigon in 2013 and creative responses to the sex work ban in Vietnam in 2014 I’m pleased to report that a number of knowledgeable people with prominent positions are again calling for the legalization of prostitution in the land of the ao dai. According to this recent article from Thanh Nien News:
Social affairs officials at a national meeting on Friday said the government should legalize prostitution and create red-light districts in major cities to monitor the sex industry more effectively….
They said the current ban on prostitution has created thousands of disguised businesses where workers mainly offer sex services.
There was a lively debate at the meeting as officials could not agree on how Vietnam should see prostitution.
Le Van Quy, a senior official from HCMC’s social affairs department, said prostitution has existed for so long “we have to accept it and regulate it with a set of rules.”
Quy said there should be legislation and planning to bring all businesses providing “sensitive services” such as bars, clubs and massage parlors to one single area.
He said the central government needs to make the “bold” move and try setting up such districts in major cities, including Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh and Hai Phong.
Vietnam currently imposes a cash fine on sex workers while those procuring sex services can go to jail.
Quy said that under the current system, prostitution is still available everywhere
Of course this is a lot easier said than done which is illustrated by the five years that have passed since the legalization of sports betting was announced without any measures being taken. Things are especially difficult in this case since other prominent parties would like to keep things just as they even though the age old war against sex work hasn’t been won anywhere in the world. The aforementioned article continues:
Phung Quang Thuc, in charge of social violations control in Hanoi, said the fight against prostitution just needs to be “more drastic.”
“We cannot see prostitution as something we have to accept. Otherwise it will grow and destroy all the good traditions of Vietnam,” Thuc said.
The Thanh Nien article covers this public debate in a lot more detail and provides a pretty good read for anyone like me interested in the commercial sex industry in Vietnam and the rest of the world. This follow up article with direct quotes from sex workers is perhaps even more interesting. According to that article:
Most of the sex workers interviewed by Thanh Nien and those providing so-called “sensitive services” around the city supported the proposal, which was made at a meeting held by the social affairs ministry Friday.
It probably wouldn’t be wise to hold one’s breath and wait for decriminalization though considering that the Deputy Prime Minister said prostitution would never be legalized in Vietnam in late-2014.
Across the border in Cambodia law enforcement in the capital city of Phnom Penh spent two consecutive nights rounding up suspected street walkers at one of the city’s most well known landmarks. According to this article in the Phnom Penh Post:
Authorities rounded up 23 more sex workers last night in the capital’s Daun Penh district, police officials said yesterday, marking the second night in a row such crackdowns occurred.
A total of 66 people were taken “for ‘re-education’ at the notorious Prey Speu detention centre” in two days even though another article in the same paper quotes chief of the district’s security guards saying “They are not afraid of us; we arrest them and they come back one day later.”
They don’t call it the oldest industry in the world for nothing.
I leave you with happier news from across the water in the Philippines. According to promotional material sent to me the Filipina-focused porn site Trike Patrol is running a 66 percent off sale for a brief period that gives users access to all of their content for a mere 9.99 USD a month. That’s even less than the freelance masseuses who walk P Burgos Street in Manila every night ask for a session. Hopefully none of those poor lasses will be rounded up for reeducation anytime soon.